There are several scams targeting our kupuna that you need to know about.
Scam 1: The first is a nationwide scheme where new real estate owners and individuals who have recently transferred their homes into their revocable living trusts receive letters from a company calling itself “Property Transfer Services.” The letters warn the recipients of the importance of having copies of deeds to their real estate, and they give the recipients a deadline to send in $83 for a copy of their deeds. The letters are official-looking enough to fool people into spending money on documents that they can get for free or for far less than $83.
If you receive one of these letters, you can safely ignore it. Nothing bad will happen to you or your home if you do not send in the $83. What Property Transfer Services is doing is not necessarily illegal, but it has deceived some people thinking they had to get a check in the mail right away.
Scam 2: A second scam comes in the form of an email from the IRS telling you need to contact them in order to claim a refund that you are due. What the sender of the message really wants is information about you so he or she can rip you off. First of all, the IRS never emails. They always snail mail. If you receive an email from somebody claiming to be from the IRS, you can safely ignore it.
Scam 3: A third scam involves somebody calling you on the phone telling you it’s time to update your estate planning documents, and trying to get you to make an appointment to meet with someone from their organization. Best, is to hang up and then call your own estate planning attorney. Find out whether the call came from that office. You will probably find that it did not. Periodically updating your estate plan is a good idea, but it should be by your chosen advisors, and not by somebody who may not be looking out for your best interests. Your estate plan involves a lot of confidential and sensitive information that you don’t want it to fall into the wrong hands.
Beware of anyone asking you questions of a personal nature unless you know exactly who they are and why they need the information. Better to be safe than sorry. If you are contacted by a stranger asking nosy questions, hang up and call your own trusted advisors. You can also contact your local office of consumer protection. In Hawaii, the URL for the State Office of Consumer Protection is http://cca.hawaii.gov/ocp/, and the phone number is 808-587-4272. Be careful out there!
Scott Makuakane, Attorney at Law
Specializing in estate planning and trust law.
Scott’s TV’s show on KWHE, Oceanic channel 11: Malama Kupuna airs Sundays at 8:30pm